Saturday 10 December 2011

The Horn!

Well, we made it! Early this morning we landed on Isla Hornos, AKA “Cape Horn”. In actual fact, Cape Horn is a small peninsula on Isla Hornos, which is considered to be the most southerly place in the Americas. You may be aware of the fierce reputation the “Cape” has- many a sailor has lost his life rounding the Horn. But today we had flat calm conditions with a gentle swell coming in on the landing beach- rare conditions to be sure. The Fram has attempted landings on Cape Horn before during previous Antarctic seasons but conditions only allow it perhaps once or twice in 10 attempts so you can now understand better how lucky we were.

One hundred and thirty-eight steps take you from the cobble beach to the top of the island. From there you can walk on a board-walk to the lighthouse and chapel and gift shop, or take a right to the famous Albatross monument, dedicated to all the sailors who have lost their lives in this area. An old belief held that albatrosses were occupied by the souls of dead sailors, and it was thus very bad luck to kill an albatross. This was a major theme in the well-known poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by the 18th century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! -
Why look'st thou so? With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross."

Once we returned to the vessel the captain navigated the Fram around the Horn and into the Pacific Ocean, repeating what has been done by so many ships before. Then we set sail for Antarctica and entered the Drake Passage. We will see what Nature will bring us over the next two days!